‘Adore,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


I’ll say this about “Adore”: It never goes where you expect it to.

This Australian film, from director Anne Fontaine, was titled “Two Mothers” when it screened at Sundance in January, “The Grandmothers” when it was a short novel by Doris Lessing. “Adore” seems more descriptive, if more vague – but none of these titles prepares you for this strange little tale.

Naomi Watts and Robin Wright play Lil and Roz, two lifelong friends who live above a picturesque beach on the east coast of Australia. First seen as girls, they are then shown as women, then as the mothers of young boys (first glimpsed at the funeral for Lil’s husband). One more cut and they’re the mothers of strapping young men, Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (Peter Frecheville). Roz owns an art gallery; Lil manages a yacht-building concern.

It’s an idyllic existence, with perpetually sunny skies, seemingly lots of beach time and no worries. Then Roz’s husband Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) gets big news: He’s been offered a job on the theater faculty at Sydney University, a position too good to pass up. So he wants to move the family to Sydney.

Roz is reluctant, so Harold heads off for his first weeks of classes. Roz and son Tom and Lil and son Ian continue to hang out together. Ian is the mopier, more sensitive one, still suffering the absence of his father. He obviously has a close relationship with Roz (“She’s like a second mother,” he notes at one point) – and finally acts on it, kissing (and then bedding) her one night after Tom has gone to bed drunk and Lil has headed home.

But Tom wakes up in the middle of the night – and spies Roz sneaking back to her own room. Rather than confront them, he takes the news to Lil, then makes the same move on her. She resists initially but, given her decade-plus without a man in her life, she finally succumbs.

She and Roz talk to each other about it, deciding it has to end. But it doesn’t – so instead, it turns into this strangely rapturous season of almost incestuous relationships (though with very little actual on-screen sex). When Harold asks Roz if she’s ready to move to Sydney with him, she refuses.

Nothing this perfect can last, of course.

This review continues on my website.

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